May Issue 2010
The Citizens Archive of Pakistan has encapsulated the first decade of Pakistan’s freedom struggle in a way that moves audiences like never before. Their exhibit, “The Birth of Pakistan,” at the Mohatta Palace, was opened to the public on Pakistan Day, March 23, and will be on display for three months. The interactive display is specially designed to spark young children’s interest in Pakistan’s history. Sound showers, audio tapes and visual screens pervade the rooms with a sense of patriotic fervour, transporting us six decades back, to become part of the plight of refugees streaming into the nascent country.
Sitting in a train carriage constructed by the students of the Indus Valley School, snippets of a conversation between a woman and her children can be heard, recounting the experience of her journey. Hamza Usman, a volunteer, tells Newsline how a lady who visited the model refugee camp was moved to tell her own story of the time she spent as a refugee at the border. The interactive features force the onlookers to share their experiences and connect with the thousands who carried a dream in their hearts and left the familiar for a new beginning. One is overwhelmed when issued a replica of an old passport and a ticket into the nascent country from a reconstructed rehabilitation office. The exhibition, littered with pictures and video clips from the Sindh archive, leaves us with a feeling of trepidation and the realisation that challenges we face today, were glaring out at us from the very beginning.
The screens of the Jubilee, Bambino and Nishat cinemas tell a tale of the free-spirited and the feisty, with ballroom dances at the Sindh Club. The death of the Quaid is where the exhibition ends, and an old telegraph machine is placed so people can leave their feedback for the organisers. The exhibition is bilingual and is attracting a host of charity and other schools besides the general public. The project is very refreshing as it separates the history of Pakistan from religion, which tends to overpower discourse. The overall aim seems to be, to open the eyes and minds of Pakistanis to the fervour with which the nation was formed, despite insurmountable hurdles. It takes us on a journey of hope and sacrifice, an escape from the disillusionment clouding the nation today.
Maheen Bashir Adamjee is an APNS award-winning journalist. She was an editorial assistant at Newsline from 2010-2011.